Metro Meltdown (Sacrifice)

Today I almost became one of those hysterical people I usually avoid when taking public transportation.

Check the platitudes & soothing words now please; I don’t want them though I know you mean well.  That’s not the object of this post.  Instead I mean this post to be therapeutic (for me) and cautionary and commiserating (for others in similar situations).

<begin hysteria, a memory walk, accepting more tough life lessons and furious typing on a Metro Ride>

When I was a teenager I began feeling pains in my knees, my right knee especially.  At the time I was fairly active & sometimes went to track & field training, which I did enjoy though it kicked my ass.  Those laps around the large St. Andrew High School for Girls were not exactly fun.  So when I began feeling the pains I chalked it up to training pains that my body would eventually get accustomed to.  Mommy & Grandma thought they were growing pains.  But they became so persistent that Mommy took me to the doctor who referred me to a specialist.  Before I knew it I was doing blood and others tests & Daddy mysteriously appeared in Jamaica.  Just braps during non-holiday time is a large red flag.  But I was too caught up in whatever teenagers do to sniff out that something was up + I was sure I was immortal.

Turns out the doc thought I had lupus.  (Smaddy coulda told me?)  O I did find out…on the ride home from the last doctor’s appointment, after I’d been kicked out of the doctor’s office by my parents while they got the news.  Protective much?  The news was good as I “only” had a condition that caused the cartilage in my knee to wear away…so high impact stuff like jogging & running were no good but bicycling & swimming were prescribed along with physical therapy to strengthen my leg muscles (quads especially).

Physical therapy was just fine by me, just another thing to do.   Grandma & I went together actually.  During one of those visits the PT advised me to be grateful for having my grandmother still around & to enjoy even the physical therapy sessions she sat in on.  True to selfish teenage form I didn’t take her seriously.  I guess I thought immortality also applied to the important adults in my life.

Fast forward a year or so to August 1998 & sitting on the Air J flight to JFK. In 4 hours + the time spent at my “welcome” from the immigration folks at JFK I grew up damn fast.  Fast forward to May of the following year my grandmother was dead (I didn’t even know it was imminent because prying health information out of my family members is harder than finding bin Laden).  For years after I carried a tremendous guilt for not fully appreciating her physical presence in my life.  I was so angry for not being there for her….don’t quite know how I could have been there but I’d have traded every thing I had access to while in school in western Connecticut to be in Jamaica free from the selfish teenage attitude.

My usual short walk to the Metro is this way. At the end of the sidewalk is the now & forever marked traffic light.

Now why does this come to mind? Because this morning I stood at a traffic light to cross the street and a frigid, strong breeze assaulted my face that water was ripped from my eyes.  I could feel my face drying up despite the moisturizer I’d applied and I had to double check to see whether I actually had clothes on.  Listen, I know I (chose to) live in a temperate climate & that winter is a season but that meant shit to me when I stood there praying for the walk sign to come on (and I’ve been in worse temps too – like sub zero + a negative wind chill).  My first winter here Daddy constantly cautioned me about the winter blues & maybe that’s what this meltdown is…but I think not.

I know that I chose to emigrate to the U.S. Even at 16 no one forced me; I pushed for it actually because I felt so stifled in Jamaica (professionally & academically).  But o how I wish I’d thought more carefully about an exit strategy because right now I feel like I’m a straight up war.

Sacrifices had to be made.  I understood that then & now.   But how much is really necessary? I’ve already sacrificed some invaluable things like time with my grandmother…and here I am doing the same to my grandfather and mother.  I’m missing my little sister growing up. (And I don’t think they begrudge me the opportunities I’ve had but I’m not mollified.)  So many little things that I won’t enumerate, but even the many wonderful opportunities, experiences & successes I’ve had here + my naturally overachieving personality and the goals I’ve set cannot erase the weight of things (guilt? longing?) that I’ve given up and what I feel like I’m giving up on now.  There’s a lot that I have to look forward to, of course, but at what cost?

Never in my worst nightmares did I think that these issues would come up as a consequences of migrating. Though I would never begrudge someone else’s opportunity to travel or live in another country, I’d surely deliver a mini-lecture about coping, being prepared, and expectations; farrin is NOT what you imagine.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to adequately communicate this mix of longing, guilt, anxiety, sadness, gratitude, hopelessness and hopefulness that has coloured my life for the past 12 years.

What is the foundation and future I’m working on really worth? What other mental, emotional & personal sacrifice is out there?

Maybe I’ll never be able to answer these questions but at least I realize that reconciling where I am now and where I’m going with my 16 year old choices is an ongoing battle in this immigrant’s war.  I guess.

</end hysteria & back to reality>

20 Responses to “Metro Meltdown (Sacrifice)”
  1. Mamachel says:

    I have checked my soothing words. Plus I already got in a hug earlier *a baaaaayy* But I want you to look up two poems that helped me thru stuff. 1. Dreams – Langston Hughes (I recite this EVERY morning) 2. Invictus – William Hensley (i think that’s his name) I recently discovered it.

    Faith & Love,

  2. Shumpynella says:

    I have similar feelings of longing/anger/guilt. I have been back for numerous graduations and birthdays and weddings and unfortunately funerals. I cant begin to think abt how I feel in total…especially as I am now stuck in apartment, unable to go food shopping because my car is stuck in ice. To be honest, it isnt that I am here so much as that we are not together

  3. disturbedafterdark says:

    Since I got in my hug already too, and Invictus is an excellent recommendation… this really hit home for me like you wouldn’t believe. The exact feeling of sacrifice for “a future” that you’re not quite sure of anymore… It’s why I moved home. My little sister passed away Christmas 2003, and even though I was there at the time, I had missed the past 6 years of her life. She was only 15. I moved home less than a year later. I knew what I would face, personally and professionally, by coming home – I still have those challenges today, near 7 years later. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the greatest move professionally, but I’m very grateful to be here with my family that drive me absolutely crazy and that my son will grow up with them.

    Keep the faith hun

    • I am truly sorry about the loss of your sister.

      Thanks for the encouragement too (and hug from earlier :))…I’m still resisting accepting that returning home to live is becoming a more and more distant option so it’s always good to hear from folks who’ve done it and are doing OK. Moving back home would involve different sacrifices would be involved but they seem so much more palatable. Sometimes I feel OK with a career that would allow me to split my time between the US and Jamaica but other times it seems woefully inadequate to settle for that.

  4. Invictus is a good one. We use it in the Greek world.
    I can relate in some ways definitely. The only comfort I have about living in the states is knowing I can get a good job in my field where my age is not an issue & having the freedom to go home as I please. The negative is hoping & praying that I never get a phone call saying supm permanent happen to any of my family. I think about it all the time. Even now. Then I continue to hope & pray. ❤

    • Yes, the freedom to go home is what I’m seeking right now…hopefully it will help to fill a void. That plus being able to turn the tables on my parents and start taking care of them!

  5. petchary says:

    I would say don’t move back home. You may well regret it. I also came to live in Jamaica 22 years ago and wondered if I could stand another day here. The heat… the noise… the horrible drivers… the sexist behavior of every man on the street… I could go on and on. Now it’s home to me, although I still dislike those things… But…All immigrants go through/ have been through the same feelings as you. Stick it out is what I say. Of course you are going to feel lousy at this time of year. I have lived through many miserable winters in my home country and even though I lived there all my life FEBRUARY IS THE MOST DEPRESSING MONTH OF THE YEAR. Seriously, it’s been proved. So, hang in there is what I would say. Don’t indulge in self-pity and guilt and all those other negative emotions… PS “Invictus” is Latin not Greek, meaning “undefeated.”

    • Interesting caution, Petchary. I do worry about returning home and regretting it but the negatives you highlight appear here too if in different forms or of a different kind. No where is perfect but Jamaica suits my soul like no other place on earth ever will.

      As for other immigrants: I truly don’t know what the common narrative is, I only know what I feel and what my friends and I talk about and what I’ve observed with some family members. It’s just something I’ve found that “we” don’t talk about…it’s like a taboo. February is quite awful but I think it’s more than that to be honest…and it’s not quite self pity either but more of questioning and challenging myself about the decisions I have made and the ones I have to make quite soon. I really am wondering if the sacrifices are and will be worth it. Part of it is that my natural inclination is to want things done just so not perfect but just to a high standard + I’m usually hard on myself. I don’t like to settle “just for the sake of”…

      O and I know what ChocLitLuvJoi meant: she was talking about the poem’s use within the fraternity and sorority (i.e. Greek) world.

  6. Aurie says:

    i certainly have my moments as well when it comes to missing Jamaica and just growing up. I miss some levels of ignorance and while I strive to simplify my life as much as possible, the task gets more and more daunting with each passing year. What gets me through is focusing on my passions and pursuing them with everything I have. A life worth living isn’t something that you discover; it’s an unwavering faith that your journey is always worth it no matter what the circumstances. That’s how I cope.

    • Aha, that faith wavers sometimes to be honest despite my best efforts…sometimes because of all the other things going on in my life but sometimes the burdens of “making it” the way I want to seem o so heavy. I know that my passions are strong and I am dedicated to pursuing them with full commitment….sometimes thought *sigh*

      Quite honestly, confronting these issues is something I’m glad I’m doing because before I ignored them. All that bottling up is not good. For a while I thought I didn’t have the right to be feeling all these mixed emotions because I chose to move so therefore the consequences are just things I’d have to suck up. Like I said, I’m hard on myself.

  7. Ms. Nikks says:

    I went to Jamaica 4 times last year, but no matter how many times I go, it breaks my heart to board the plane and leave. I can’t get enough. I often wonder as we take off, “What would life be like if I’d stayed? Would I be driving? Would I be alive? Would I be married?”

    I left when I was 8 years old, but it still feels like yesterday and I often regret it and it’s more than just winter blues, so much more.

    I feel like I’m missing out on watching my cousins grow and I wish I was closer just to hug them and teach them things. You aren’t alone in this feeling! The thing that makes me feel better is knowing that I have things financially better than I’d have them if I were home and the family definitely benefits from our financial security.

    That brings me comfort and makes me work hard.

    • Thanks for sharing, Ms. Nikks. The benefits of living here are undeniable but for me – right now at least – they’re mostly material and therefore unfulfilling. It’s the intangible things like missing the family and young ones grow up that bother me the most.

      And four times last year!!! *jealous look!*

  8. missgoodas says:

    Thanks for sharing your pain. Hugs! Hang in there.

  9. Reneé says:

    You know as much as it sucks to be missing out on stuff back home, you may have resented the family as the reason you were missing out on “opportunities” in America. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t :-/

    Oh and try to stay warm. That weather you guys are getting sounds brutal.

    • Yep, damned if you damned if you don’t! I just hope I don’t spend too much time trying to make up for things you know?

      And as for staying warm: that means staying in as much as possible!!

  10. @ Petchary I didn’t mean Greek as in the origin. Renee knows what I’m talking about but thanks.

  11. kaydziboo says:

    SWEET SWEET JAMAICA KYAAN LEF’ YA! Lol. Jamaica is nice and all but financially and career wise…hm well I am willing to leave my country again. I went through all that you are experiencing in Cuba but right ya now a straight movements me seh! I think you are much better off (no parent hanging over you and stifling your growth and independence, an right ya now nuttin nah gwaan inna di place).
    One thing that has me concerned is the ‘not settling part’. hmmmmmmm….I’ve seen way too many persons with ‘high’ standards losing out. I must say in my short life I have seen the world change. It’s scary. But to each his own I guess. I am a risk-taker, I haveno problem with gambling and losing as long as my goal and efforts are noble.
    Every month is hard for me so…. However, this February was very entertaining, eventful and exciting.
    Well cucumberjuice the seasons change and nothing remains the same, so prepare!

  12. petchary says:

    Well… sacrifice is sometimes a good thing if you can find what you want at the end of it. But I don’t want you to come back, then start regretting THAT decision too. Do a “pros and cons” list: Possibility of job, Health care, Education, Standard of Living, Quality of Life, Possibility of Raising a Family, Earning a Decent Living, CRIME and security, Support from Family/Friends (not too much of the latter, you need to stand on your own feet at some point without leaning on people).
    What you are experiencing is simple homesickness. That can always be cured by a trip home!
    I truly don’t think the weather is an issue at all. You can be happy anywhere – hot or cold.
    I understand about the Greek (my son is a frat boy himself!) but didn’t know that was one of their poems!
    I love what Aurie says… Focus on your passions. And I don’t know what the situation is with your parents, but when I left Europe over 2 decades ago to come to Jamaica… They were happy for me. Don’t feel guilty!!

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